I was a prodigal once myself
This reflection is based on my own personal experience and is a message to those who have experienced a desire to over-distance themselves from their family. This does not apply to situations where violence/safety are an issue. If you find yourself in an unsafe situation please contact authorities/support personnel in your area.
It’s likely you’ve heard the parable of The Prodigal Son - a stubborn boy leaves his family, taking only his inheritance. Before long he spends his riches away leaving himself with nothing. In a moment of rock bottom, he humbly returns to his father’s land and requests to be a servant in hopes to stay. He finds himself welcomed into his father’s arms who instead celebrates his return in grandiose fashion.
This story is often shared from the pulpit in a manner that focuses on God’s love for us, prompting us to return to His arms, reminding us of His unconditional love. It is also used to encourage parents who have experienced a prodigal themselves, indicating their child will return, and it will indeed be a glorious event when they do. While it is true that this is a great example of God’s love for us, the latter use of this passage is not always the case. Life itself may not always present the same opportunity or happy ending.
I was a bit of a prodigal myself once. I was 23, angry, and had my own ideas about freedom and independence. I left “home” in a way I regret - packed my bags, headed for a new state, and until the moment of departure, told no one I was leaving. It can be dangerously easy to get trapped by pride. Erroneous assumptions and angry mental musings become routine beliefs that guide our behavior and set us on an unconscious path of potential destruction. In those moments, I didn’t think of the regrets I would have or the people I would hurt, I had only my own desires in mind, justified by the belief system I had structured.
Sadly, this is not an uncommon reaction of adolescence or young adulthood. Those affected prefer to remain optimistic that the season will soon be over and was just a phase. As an offer of comfort, the story of the prodigal is often declared matter-of-factly to grieving parents that their runaway child will soon return home. However, the truth is that there is no guarantee this will be the case.
Sometimes it IS too late
I recently read a story of a prodigal who did not make it back home. He was a young man with his sights set on freedom and the thrill of an adventure. He sold all he owned, even changed his name, loaded up his car, and vanished from the lives of those around him. His loved ones never saw him alive again. I suspect he did not foresee his journey ending in death, his later found journals, were in fact, focused on surviving in the wilderness on an ultimate adventure. Such is life - endings we don’t see coming.
We all Have our Reasons
I am sure he had his. They probably even made sense to him in the moment. But here is the thing. We all have our reasons. The truth is, that doesn’t make them right!
As I read the story of this man’s life captured in a book -Into the Wild, I found myself in deep heartache for the pain and uncertainties left behind for his sister and parents -how they thought about him, had nightmares of him calling for help, how they had no way to contact him, no way of knowing if he was okay, how they had to watch their ultimate fear become reality - receiving the news he had died alone in the woods.
Not all prodigals come home. Sometimes it is too late and time does run out. I am so thankful that was not the case for me, but wish desperately that it not be the case for anyone else.
It is uncomfortable to think about the choices of my youth. People don’t really want to dive into their shortcomings, but it is necessary if we want to grow, and better yet, if we hope to use our experiences to prevent someone else from making the same mistakes.
#Truth - Life is fleeting
In life, no matter what we do, good or bad, we will leave behind a legacy. Every encounter we have will leave us remembered somehow. That memory is important. How do you wish to be remembered? The truth is, life is fleeting and second chances aren’t guaranteed. The ball is in your court, what are you going to do with it?